From Roe To Dobbs: How The Supreme Court Became A Political Weapon

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization eliminates the right to an abortion. Overturning Roe v. Wade is devastating for all of us – not just for the women and women of color who are disproportionately impacted. 

The decision to take away someone’s right to make their own personal health decisions is a threat to all of us. Overturning Roe threatens everyone’s right to determine our families, our futures, and our communities. 

It’s an alarming departure from a Court long revered for upholding the freedoms and protections the Constitution affords to all of us. 

Throughout our imperfect history, the Supreme Court has at times interpreted the Constitution to make our country a more just place – declaring formal school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, enshrining marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, and overturning laws against interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia

But today’s decision is a culmination of the right-wing’s concerted, decades-long scheme to politicize our courts. Special interests have engineered this Court to pursue a narrow ideological agenda . They’ve used the Court as a weapon against the values a majority of Americans support, fostering deep mistrust in our judicial system.

That fact – and how we got here – should set off alarm bells for everyone who cares about American democracy.

Five justices on the Court were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote when they first ran for president – but won thanks to the broken Electoral College. The only way to guarantee that won’t happen again is to enact National Popular Vote – which is just a handful of states away from permanently fixing that imbalance.

On top of that, the Supreme Court confirmation process has been brazenly politicized by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Don’t forget how he blocked President Barack Obama from filling an open seat all through 2016, insisting the voters should get to weigh in. 

Then, in a total about-face four years later, he chose to rush Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just weeks before the 2020 election – with millions of votes already cast – to secure Donald Trump one last pick.

McConnell and his backers have replicated that same approach across the federal court system – with major consequences for hundreds of millions of Americans. And unfortunately, their strategy radically exploits the weak spots in our political system – like the unrepresentative tilt of the U.S. Senate towards rural and white voters who have disproportionate power over who gets a lifetime appointment to the Court.

Moreover, some justices on the Court subscribe to a very narrow approach to interpreting the Constitution in a manner that ignores the context of the values imbued in the Constitution, as amended. That kind of approach leaves us with courts that do not reflect the people they serve. It will take our creative thinking, political will, and concerted action to secure a court that delivers justice for every American.

Without that, we’ll just see more and more rulings that reject democracy’s values of inclusion, freedom, and equality. In just the past decade, this Supreme Court has handed down major rulings that have made our democracy easier to distort and less responsive to people like you and me by:

  • Allowing unlimited corporate money to influence elections in Citizens United v. FEC
  • …gutting the Voting Rights Act’s protections against racist voter suppression in Shelby County v. Holder
  • …and ducking the issue of  brazen racial and partisan gerrymandering to skew our elections and deny people their right to fair representation in Rucho v. Common Cause.

Today is a day of mourning for many Americans who believe in a government of, by, and for the people. I want to hold space for the pain, fear, and anger many of us are feeling right now, and encourage you to take the time to take care of yourselves and others.

Those of us who believe that every one of us deserves a voice in the decisions that affect our lives cannot give up – and must continue to work to live up to the values we all share.